reviews

  • Roy Lichtenstein

    Castelli Gallery Uptown

    Roy Lichtenstein’s recent exhibition contained one of his best paintings in recent years, and three others which in combination could not equal the first. Lichtenstein has developed toward greater thematic and formal complexity. His earlier work usually focused on a single object, event or kind of representation: a golf ball or a brushstroke; a Picasso still life or a Greek temple; a blown-up advertisement or frame or two from a comic strip; a mirror or a Mondrian. All were subjected to Lichtenstein’s own sardonic method of representation involving Benday dots, flat primaries, thick black outlines

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  • Hanne Darboven

    Sonnabend Gallery

    Hanne Darboven, to paraphrase the title of Lucy Lippard’s article on her work, is still “deep in numbers.” In the combined spaces of Castelli (downtown) and Sonnabend Galleries she exhibited 24 songs on each floor, each group with its own index. The indexes took up about one wall each, the 24 songs most of the remaining space. The index only lays the process out, the songs fill it in. 24 Songs: Form B, the piece at Sonnabend, is based on 19, the curve of 100. Each index deals with three pairs of number which are 19 units apart; the seventh song for example deals with 8/26, 17/35, and 26/44, the

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  • Larry Poons

    Knoedler Contemporary Art

    Larry Poons is squirting paint on the vertical now; a few years back it was on the diagonal in great sweeping arcs. The vertical squirts usually end in a splash at the top or the bottom of the canvas and this increases the suggestions of waterfalls or related events. There is something essentially narrative about Poons’s undertaking. Each painting is an unvaried continuum within which a departure from the norm, some noticeable incident becomes the focal point or climax. At first, it all looks very accidental and then it all looks very arranged and it is not too involving either way. Nonetheless,

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  • Doug Ohlson

    Doug Ohlson continues to stain his canvases with large round shapes and the interstices between them with a lighter, sometimes contrasting color. Both result from the same process; the shapes are placed over a different color or are denser accumulations of a single color. The latter occurs in the largest painting in the show, Yellow (about 20’ long) in which denser yellow shapes are visible due to slightly paler, bluer interstices. The entire surface tends to merge into a continuous yellow light and the distinctions disappear altogether as you get close to the painting. The painting is both

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  • Philip Guston

    McKee Gallery

    Philip Guston’s paintings consist of three things: the images (and their possible meaning), the surfaces, and the color, all carefully balanced one against the other. Guston paints a few items, most often old shoes, sole up, a position more of assertion than disuse. These shoes are in landscapes: singly in piles or on posts, which with Guston’s characteristic duality suggest both tree trunks and gravestones. In other instances the pile of shoes shares the canvas with a masked or unmasked head (cigarette in mouth), a light bulb, a window shade. In some ways these paintings are, as Guston’s titles

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  • Jackie Ferrara

    A.M. Sachs Gallery

    Looking at Jackie Ferrara’s pyramids one thinks in terms of building. The stacking of plywood or chipboard row on top of row recalls methods of architectural structuring, as well as some of Carl Andre’s early work. Yet what becomes important in Ferrara’s new pieces is not only building as an activity which ties the end product to its making, but also building as a concept of series—as the sequential ordering of part to part which accumulates into a whole that is both an entity in itself and the sum of its parts. A series implies progression. But progression is not merely additive. It may

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  • James Biederman

    Ferrara’s use of progression relies on the order of building where the whole arises out of the systematic structuring of its parts. In contrast, James Biederman’s additive procedure implies patterns of growth where each part is induced rather than deduced from its predecessor. Biederman’s pieces tend to work in pairs, providing alternative possibilities of arrangement for similar accumulations of materials. His horizontal gluing together of slate fragments into a waving line is juxtaposed with his vertical stacking of an equal number of slate pieces. Horizontally the sections join at the side

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  • Robert Mangold

    Another notion of progression arises in Robert Mangold’s new paintings. Because the canvas support exists as already given, the internal drawing becomes a subtractive process, a cutting into the surface. Dividing up the whole instead of building or growing into it. For example, in his rose-colored Square within a Square 3 Mangold draws the outer edge of the square support with an internal line. The surface is then further articulated with three proportionately decreasing squares arranged in order counterclockwise from the bottom right to the top left. Painting becomes a process of sequential

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  • David Novros

    Sequence in David Novros’s paintings is the traditional one of pictorial ordering, of the balancing of relationships from color to color and shape to shape across the canvas. His progressions derive from correspondences of one to one instead of additions of one plus one. Although his forms bear an architectonic relation to each other, the organization is more the weighing of one part against another within a whole than the building of a whole through systematic succession. His paintings function primarily as closed systems within which one’s eye travels through permutations and repetitions of

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  • Lucio Pozzi

    Like Novros, Lucio Pozziorganizes his work around the circularity of comparison. One to one and one to two and back again to one to one. However, in his work the act of relating is explicitly transferred to the viewer instead of remaining contingent on the interior dynamics of the painting. In his recent show, Pozzi exhibited two sets of paintings—A Double and Z Double—hung directly opposite each other on two sides of the gallery. Each set contrasted two equal panels, both painted gray. On one a vertical line was scraped out by a pencil from a horizontally brushed background; on the other a

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  • Jesus Raphael Soto

    Guggenheim Musem, Denise René Gallery

    A more dramatic exposition of the viewer’s participatory role can be seen in JESUS Raphael Soto’s reliefs and environments. Here the movement of the viewer is essential for the activation of the optical vibrations of the works. For the changes in relationship are based on the sensory effects of moire patterns which depend upon the viewer for their existence. The viewer is thus no longer just a spectator but an actual performer necessary for the completion of the work. Looking at Soto’s retrospective one can trace his increasing involvement of the viewer in his works, leading to a physical as

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  • Pistoletto

    A more blatant manipulation of the viewer as the actor in a visual trick is apparent in Pistoletto’s work. His use of polished steel surfaces for his images allows one to see one’s own mirror reflection as an observer of the vignettes enacted by the photo-silkscreened figures. One becomes a double voyeur, peering into the picture and looking back out to confront oneself looking in. The imagery attached to the surface serves as the set for one’s own performance. In Cage-Environment, for example, one is faced by a group of reflective surfaces divided by printed bars. Both the viewer and the room

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  • Nancy Spero

    A.I.R. Gallery

    A different kind of involvement is demanded of the viewer in NANCY SPERO’s work. Using collage and poster techniques, Spero attempts to prod one into political consciousnesss through art.

    Bold silkscreened letters parade across a newsprint banner—“Screw Coporate Art” and “Ars Sine Scientia Nihil Est.” Declarative statements which empty out their content through advertisement, reminding one of the glibness acquired through repetition of antiwar slogans. In other pieces, Spero scatters her bizarre drawings of heads with phallic tongues and perverse sexual relations among her collection of pithy

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  • Robert Doisneau

    If narrative is a weakness in Spero’s drawings, it is a strength in ROBERT DOISNEAU’s photographs. For Doisneau is a racconteur of the everyday. His camera roams the streets of Paris, capturing those transitory instants which reveal the candid humor, as well as the humanness, of ordinary events. The laughter of the incongruous recalls the vision of Lartigue. A woman pushing a baby carriage dashes across the street as the maze of cars behind her prepares for attack. A pigeon perches nonchalantly on top of a splattered statue head. A man gazes in consternation juxtaposed against the severed animal

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  • Mac Adams

    112 Greene Street

    Upon encountering the Conceptual dilemma, photographers divided into two camps—the photographer as artist versus the artist as photographer. In the former, the results of technology (the finesse of the print, for example) take precedence, and familiar pictorial issues are perpetuated. In the latter, photography has been forced to address “hard art” problems, including those raised by the Conceptual movement. Ragtag names have been applied to this effort—photographic Conceptualism, post-Conceptual Photography, Story Art, Narrative Art. These nicknames cover the photographic work of John Baldessari,

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  • Yves Tanguy

    Acquavella Galleries

    The groupings of 53 paintings by Yves Tanguy, from his earliest experimentalworks of the 1920s to examples of his late, tight style of the 1950s, is a prime and perplexing occasion. There is by now no doubt of Tanguy’s pioneering role in the Surrealist adventure; yet I am far from sharing John Ashbery’s view of Tanguy as “a great painter.” Ashbery, a signal poet of the New York School, is the catalogue essayist for the present exhibition. He was an editor of ArtNews under Thomas Hess, whose own university-oriented and francophilic bias perpetuated the values released by the collision between

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  • Terry Allen

    Michael Walls Gallery

    California artist Terry Allen’s latest collages form the third and final chapter of his narrative series, Juarez Device. These 13 works treat the journey of two couples, Jabo and Chic Blonde, Alice and the Sailor, through the southwestern United States and Mexican border towns. It’s never clear where they go or just what happens, but Allen throws out clues to infer a tale of sex, murder, and interstate flight. This work is cluttered and complex compared to the photographic story artists. But his aims are different. He’s after the Surrealist chimera of an amalgamated literary and pictorial art,

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  • Bill Beckley

    John Gibson Gallery

    Narrative artist Bill Beckley has bravely stuck himself with a stingier aspect of Pop style, namely emblem-making and punchline icons. The cheesiest of the multipaneled photographic works he showed in the main room of the Gibson Gallery short the circuit of popular source and art use. I mean they are uncomfortably close to what is apparently their models—lush, slick color advertisements, and the sophisticated gag photos in Esquire and The National Lampoon.

    Beckley makes jokes about other artists: Acconci (a photo with bites taken out of it), Dibbets (a golf course panorama which includes a photo

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  • Dotty Attie

    A.I.R. Gallery

    Dotty Attie also makes narrative series of images, both with and without text. But instead of photographs, her images are meticulously executed drawings based mainly on details chosen from paintings by Ingres, the Mannerists, and other masters. But she selects like a photographer. I mean she treats several centuries of paintings as a field of available images from which she is free to abstract tiny passages.

    Most of the paintings she has ransacked depict moments of history or myth from which the painter sought to extract a moral for the edification of his contemporaries. They were deliberately

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  • Stefan Eins

    3 Mercer Street Store

    Austrian emigré Stefan Eins rented a storefront in SoHo, a few blocks below the main gallery scene, and sits in it to demonstrate his artworks. There are four of them: a pulley attached to the ceiling; a crowbar leaning against the wall; a wooden block with a pin in it with which Eins plays records on an old phonograph; and a bottle of water and a pump he uses to force air into the jar until enough pressure builds up to condense the humid air into a kind of fog.

    Eins offers the two tools and two toys at prices that must be close to the cost of materials. Oldenburg’s 1961 Store, sponsored by a

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  • Arthur Koepcke

    René Block Gallery

    As a formal determinant in object-making, this participatory function is partly rooted in what Dali called “Objects of Symbolic Function,” Surrealist works like Giacometti’s Suspended Ball of 1930–31 which incorporate particular elements designed to be moved. The cheerful presumption thateveryone is an artist underlies the populist expansion of the mail art movement, and this idea is implicit in the proto-Conceptual work of George Brecht and Arthur Koepcke, Danish artist and Fluxus promoter of the ’60s.

    Continue . . . is a box multiple ($75 from the gallery) containing 129 ideas—strategies,

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  • Newton Harrison

    Ronald Feldman Gallery

    In the handouts accompanying his show, Newton Harrison proclaims that he is after “an art, social in operation, based on tangible harvests, that works efficiently both as system and as metaphor.” The harvest he speaks of is seafood, cultured at his as yet unconstructed estuarial marine plantation in Southern California. I admire farmer Harrison’s politics. He is committed to collectivity, and he has what look like sound proposals to ameliorate the world’s food crisis. Nevertheless I am constrained to deal with the works in his show, and they reveal a commitment to a pictorial format that is not

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  • James Barth

    541 Broadway

    Aces and Eights by James Barth immediately recalls Yvonne Rainer’s This Is The Story of a Woman Who . . . . One reason is because of the way in which Aces and Eights weaves a loosely drawn narrative web by means of several distinct modes and techniques of representation—dance, writing, speaking, photomontage as well as tape-recorded monologues, songs, and music.

    The shift from one medium to another, say from movement to printed slide or from spoken monologue to printed slide, is often psychologically motivated—the slide standing for a thought of the character/performer or his alter-ego. The way

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  • Douglas Dunn

    The New School

    Dunn’s Octopus was choreographed for The New School’s Choreoconcerts and Critiques series. What is especially striking about Dunn’s work is the way in which he used both the physical environment and the social setting of the Choreoconcerts as the basic materials for his dance.

    The first part of Octopus, “Whale,” begins with Dunn, standing toward the back of the stage, dressed in white shirt and pants with red handkerchiefs on his neck, wrists and ankles, and blue handkerchiefs on his knees and elbows. He unties the blue ones; then he slowly removes his shirt and pants, suggesting a strip-tease,

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  • David Woodberry

    Byrd Hoffman

    David Woodberry was one of the dancers in Octopus, but his own solo Dasan diverges from Dunn’s insofar as Dasan is primarily preoccupied with evolving a choreographic design that will make salient specific qualities of the body (strength, weight and balance) rather than with setting in motion an extended play of formal correspondences.

    Dasan begins somewhat ambiguously: Woodberry is on the dance floor when the audience arrives, pacing around often looking toward the door. One’s uncertainty whether or not the performance has begun directs close attention to Woodberry’s movements. Finally, Woodberry

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